semi-finals
team of the tournament: my pre-cup predictions

the semi-finals

I liked both matches ... obviously, Croatia-England was more exciting, and I've seen some complaints that France-Belgium was a bit boring, but I think that underrates that one.

France-Belgium. First half was so-so. Belgium had possession, France had the shots, with Griezmann leading the way ... he took 5 shots in the first half, none on target. Eden Hazard was the best player on the field, as he was for the entire match. He was pretty much all Belgium had in the second half, though. Meanwhile, a few French players stepped up, including Griezmann, whose corner led to the goal by Umtiti, who also had a good half. Overall, as Michael Cox said (and you should read his analysis, which actually says something, especially compared to my ramblings here), "It was intriguing rather than enthralling". On Telemundo, Andres Cantor remarked more than once about what he thought was the lackadaisical responses of the crowd. "It's the semi-finals of the World Cup!"

Croatia-England. I didn't really have a rooting interest in this one ... England, I guess, except Croatia has Luka Modric, and I like him more than any of the England players. When England took the early lead from Trippier magnificent free kick:

(One of Sammy Sadovnik's trademarks comes when there is a dangerous free kick. "Aroma de gol", he says, and it was never more appropriate than with Trippier's kick.)

But, as has happened before, I discovered my true rooting interest when Croatia equalized through Perisic midway through the second half, as I threw my hands in the air. Maybe I was just glad it was turning out to be a good match ... I've got nothing against England. It was perfect that the goal came on a cross from Sime Vrsaljko, who had a very good match, to Perisic, who had an even better match. Perisic's goal was pretty amazing ... and, according to pretty much every England fan, illegal, due to the height of Perisic' foot:

I have no unique insights into the extra time ... I have no idea how Croatia keeps playing these 120-minute matches while seeming to maintain their energy level. But it's been quite something to watch.

And so, to the goal that ended England's dream:

 

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